EX-YU awaiting US flights

EX-YU without links to the US
Almost all of the countries of the former Yugoslavia have a desire to be served by direct flights to the United States. Last year Belgrade and Zagreb came close when Swift Air announced it would launch services from Chicago to the two capitals. In the end, the inaugural flight, with 221 passengers onboard, was cancelled minutes before it was meant to depart due to problems with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This year there has been no talk of flights between the United States and EX-YU, however, there have been some developments.

Earlier this month Croatia Airlines and US Airways signed a bilateral code share agreement, allowing the Croatian carrier to code share on US Airways’ services from Europe to Philadelphia and Charlotte. The Croatian national carrier also added its code on US Airways flights from Philadelphia to Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis, making it the only airline in the former Yugoslavia with its own codes on US bound flights. Zagreb Airport says that some 105.000 passengers travel on a yearly basis between the United States and the Croatian capital with 64% of passengers originating from the States. Furthermore, Dubrovnik Airport notes that approximately over 3.000 passengers travel from New York to Dubrovnik each year. So far, no American based airline has expressed interest to inaugurate flights to Croatia.

Meanwhile, Jat Airways is locked in negotiations with a foreign airline to launch flights from Belgrade to New York in cooperation with the Serbian carrier. The flights would operate in a similar fashion to those in 2004 when Uzbekistan Airways flew between Tashkent and New York via Belgrade. However, if an agreement is made, flights won’t be launched until the 2013 summer season. Next month the FAA will assess whether Serbia has met necessary safety standards which would allow both American and Serbian airlines to operate between the two countries, granting Serbia a category one ranking. Recently, Belgrade Airport launched a feasibility study, exploring the potential of transatlantic flights from the Serbian capital.

Last August Macedonia and the US signed an Open Skies Agreement. It allows unrestricted access by airlines from each side to fly to, from and beyond the other’s territory, without restriction on how often carriers fly, the kind of aircraft they use and the prices they charge. The agreement came into effect immediately upon signing. Montenegro followed suit in December 2011 by ratifying the same agreement. Adria Airways has discussed a potential partnership on transatlantic flights with Air India which would see the Indian carrier operate some of its services from Mumbai to New York via Ljubljana. However, talks have stalled with Air India dealing with its own financial woes.

JAT in New York, March 1981
Priština Airport was the last to be served by direct flights from the United States, several years ago from New York as a seasonal charter. In the late 1980s the former Yugoslavia had direct links to New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Los Angeles. Flights to the US were operated by JAT Yugoslav Airlines and Pan Am.


  1. Ivan11:08

    Whisfull thinking that any of the US cariers will fly to the ex you region. First, economical worlwide situation, second big EU flyers would not be happy. All that is left is some third carrier, like what is mentioned - Uzbekistan. Days of big JAT and YUGA are gone, what has been ended. So it doesn't matter anymore that they flew to NYC, CLE, ORD, LAX and so on...

  2. Anonymous12:25

    JFK* ^, you are stating the obvious, but the point is now there is hope for Beograd - New York in cooperation with a foreign airline.

    @ admin

    No passengers were on board last year for the Swift Air flight, I was there at the gate, we were waiting from 8-12 to board until they told us around 12 that the FAA would not let us depart. But aren't American Airlines allowed to fly to Serbia at this point in time?

    1. Anonymous12:28

      with a foreign airline in cooperation with JAT**

    2. Anonymous12:29


    3. Anonymous11:41

      Joke about time, so it is Jat and not JAT

  3. Anonymous12:26

    Would not let us go* were the exact words, but that meant board and depart**

  4. Good article. I hope one day we see those flights materialize. My feeling is that we might see Dubrovnik served on a seasonal basis by one of the US carriers soon. The passenger numbers in the summer at DBV and SPU are hard to ignore and more Americans are interested in visiting the area too. I think the cruise industry could help bring even higher numbers. If we combine the 6 airports in the area (DBV, SPU, TIV, TGD, OMO and to some extent SJJ) they record more passengers in the summer than any other area of ex YU. Both, Croatia and Montenegro have beautiful coast and if we add Medjugorje and Sarajevo to this, it's a perfect vacation package. This part of ex YU definitely has a lot of potential. Let's hope we soon see some transatlantic flights, even though just seasonal.

    1. Anonymous16:40

      You are certainly Bosnian, all the time talking about Sarajevo...

    2. Anonymous18:50

      and your point is ... ?

      -- Charlie

    3. I am Bosnian and if you haven't noticed my comment was referring primarily to DBV and its potential for transatlantic flights. SJJ was mentioned only because it's in the catchment area and can serve as an alternative destination to tourists who would prefer to see something more in addition to beaches and sea.

  5. Anonymous17:44

    I agree that flights are difficult to commence. None of the airports are large enough to attract a long-haul flights and the only two airports in the region that have done so are Athens and Budapest. The markets of ex-Yu were big when they were together but now that they are separate the markets are small and insignificant to larger American airliners. Belgrade is the only city in ex-Yu with over 2 million people and have the largest markets share but that still is not good enough.

    Then there is the problem of incentive. What can each destination offer. Croatia and Montenegro have coasts but stats show that tourists visit them and don't return. They both have little returning tourists. 3 magazines stated that they were a "one time, all see" destination. So they are not prospective. Slovenia, Bosnia, and Macedonia really have nothing to offer except claiming that there are many people of their origins living in the US/Canada. The only thing Serbia has is Belgrade and music festivals but the festivals are once a year so that won't bring flights and Belgrade is the life of the Balkans every summer, but remains relatively dormant throughout the rest of the year.

    As for negotiations, 2 US airliners expressed interest in flying to Belgrade some years ago but negotiations fell through. Last year we saw that disaster with Swift Air. Currently, Belgrade has begun negotiations with AZAL (Azerbaijani Airlines) to start a Baku-Belgrade-NYC/Chicago route and it appears that AZAL is very interested in this offer seeing as how they wanted Belgrade to be the transit destination to and from airports in France, Italy, and Switzerland. Slovenia however came the closest with negotiations with Air India but I read that Air India cancelled the negotiations because of something they disagreed with Slovenia and there are no more negotiations. It's over.

    As it stands now, American companies will not launch flights any time soon. None of the cities have much to attract them, the coasts do not change and stay the same, and the only airport that is not in debt is Belgrade. As it stands now, the airport with the best chance of any such flights is Belgrade. With the current upgrades, largest market, and AZAL still at the negotiating table...we may likely see flights from North America to Belgrade than any other airport. But even that remains to be seen.

    1. Anonymous19:53

      Interesting and somewhat off the mark. Croatian tourism is built on returning family tourism, not one time come-the last time come! As for the urban music festivals Zagreb has them too, not to mention Garden Music Festival in Zadar (recently moved to Tisno) which was named one of the best music festivals in Europe. Maybe you should visit some Croatian portals before making half baked statements.
      also, there is Zrce, i am writing this from that beach as we speak and it is packed, mostly with young western Europeans (who do return every year).

      P.S. Belgrade has 1.150,000 people, its administrative borders which cover a large number of villages and which extends more than 50km in radius encompass 1,6 million.

    2. Anonymous20:34

      Only New Belgrade makes 50% of Zagreb. There is officially 1.2 million in the urban core and 1.7 altogeter. Belgrade region including Panchevo has ~2 million people already and that's NOT counting people studying and working in Belgrade. I'm sorry for you but Belgrade is huge and actually even crowded, too much to my taste. In reality there is between 2 and 2.5 million people in Belgrade during the working year. Don't believe? Come and check it out.

    3. Anonymous20:41

      "Its administrative borders which cover a large number of villages and which extends more than 50km in radius encompass 1,6 million." - Don't you exaggerate a lil' bit? Even so, is Belgrade an exeption? Why don't you compare it with other metropolitan areas around Europe instead with your own tiny city. Every big metropolis has a large (sometimes very large) metropolitan area assigned to it. Just compare Paris and Ile-De-France, urban Paris merely makes 20% of its population and less than 10% of territory. I don't see anything unusual about the extension of Belgrade region moreover i think Panchevo should be integrated into Belgrade administration cause it is an integral part of its urban system.

    4. @ 1st Anonymous

      Pozdrav u Zrce! I love Pag. They should just build an airport there :)

    5. Anonymous20:57

      The guy who wrote that stupidity actually forgot to mention that Zagreb's "metro area" is actually bigger than Belgrade's and extends much further into villages etc. Now, talking only about the urban core, Zagreb has ~600.000 and Belgrade ~1.2 million. Only New Belgrade is near 300.000 so what are we talking about in here?
      I think these comparaisons are very stupid and simply come from jealous people cause Zagreb is completely eclipsed by Belgrade in the region and in this part of Europe. I don't see any point of comparing these two cities. One is a medium-sized city the other one is a metropolis. Why does it matters even? Is like comparing B77L and B757. No sense mixing 'grand-mothers and frogs'. Period.

    6. Anonymous22:15

      I, unlike some posers here have actually travelled extensively on business around Europe (and beyond) and know quite well what a city of 1 million or 1.5, or 2 million people look like. BG does not look like anything comparable to Budapest, Vienna or Buchuresti which are close to 2 million people. As far as its economic importance or influence outside of Serbia it is quite negligible. It is more like Sofia (in terms of airport traffic as well).
      I am Hungarian and often come to BG and I do not feel as if I am in some large metropolis. I know you people love your city (and that is OK) but please be realistic. BG lacks a lot of things which are found in most EU capitals, international chains of any sort, be it food, fancy restaurants, high fashion, hotels, stores, etc. The cars on the streets also reflect a poor country.
      Most of my countrymen are not even familiar with BG because they don't travel there but they are very familiar with Croatia (and Montenegro too). Zagreb is a lot smaller than Budapest (but not as small as you make it out to be) but it does have a lot more international companies and it looks not only more European but also richer and cleaner. Just my 2 cents.
      I know I will get a lot of comments against me, but who cares. As I said, perception of some people here and a perception of an average European are not the same.
      Travel around Europe before you make uneducated comments.

      P.S. Quoting Wikipedia and the latest census results, BG has 1,154,589 inhabitants. I did not see any urban zones outside of the city limits, not even a modern bypass road.

    7. Anonymous23:07

      You're not the only one to have traveled around and for me Budapest has never been anything special. According to your definition Tehran is also not a metropolis, right? Budapest is a plastic and depressive tourist city and your suicide statistics talk the best. Where was Budapest and where was Belgrade until the 90's? You were begging at our borders for a pair of jeans and a can of Coke. Now, for me, Belgrade has many shortcomings but is still the city in the region that has the most to offer. And honestly, in E. Europe the only major capitals that are not shit-holes are Moscow and Kiev, Warsaw to some extent. Found no bypass, change your glasses.

    8. Anonymous02:10

      I've heard that Budapest is the capital of pornography. Must be a lot of porn star business travelers :)

    9. Anonymous07:09

      Sarajevo has more to offer then Belgrade ;)

  6. JU520 BEGLAX21:12

    Guys, you need premium passengers and cargo to make the flight profitable. Some US Carriers do operate only seasonally to some European destinations, so there cld maybe a chance for a Summer schedule flight to Zagreb or Dubrovnik.
    All year I doubt as BUD,BUH lost flights to the US too. DL will even stop flights to IST this winter.

    short runways in DBV, ZAG might be another factor not to start nonstop flights, at least for 757, 763 operations. Due to hot temperatuers flights could face weight restrictions and this would amount to losses in cargo revenue. 10 tons of cargo per flight per month amounts easely to 1,3 mio USD revenue, so the cargo factor is not to underestimate.

    difficult topic. Also for BEG

    Two weeks ago we (JL) operated a Summer Charter from ZRH-DBV-HND-NRT with a Boeing 777-200ER and we could not load any cargo in ZRH due to runway lenght and temp. in DBV...
    In regards to Cargo ZAG, BEG would for sure be more favourable towards DBV. For example Sandoz LJU moves daily 3.5 tons to PHL of pharma by airfreight. Also Krka or Pliva could be supporters

    so cargo is one point, another point is Premium Passengers. SQ in ZRH was the first station in Europe to get 2nd A380 version with 98 premiums seats. 86 in Business. The business class occupancy for SQ flights SIN-ZRH-SIN amounts to 93% !!
    2nd version of SQ A380 has all upperdeck installed with C Class Seats

    but it would be really great to see some US nonstop operation to the region, we in Switzerland have plenty of it. Swiss just announced additional 4 weekly ZRH-MIA flight as of 29NOV2012, bringip up their weekly total to 11 ZRH-MIA flights.. Just recently they added 4 weeklies to ORD, so in total 11 flights per week as well.

    SAM: Kako si? Heading home for the Summer holiday again? Which airline do u choose?

    1. Hello there! Yes, I am leaving next week. I am taking AF. Have never tried them before. Send me an e-mail and I will tell you more details. I changed my computer and lost your e-mail address :(

    2. JU520 BEGLAX21:51

      ok Sam I send u one later when i return home...just about to go out to the lake :-)

    3. Sounds good....enjoy your hike :) Talk to you soon

  7. JU520 BEGLAX21:25

    YU-AMA at JFK with some PA 707s in the background is just a terrific picture !!!!

    707s of PA were flying to BEG in the early 70s already

    1. JU520 BEGLAX21:28

      Pan Am actually started 1963 to Belgrade...

      1990 I had the luck to fly ZRH-ZAG-BEG on a Boeing 727

  8. JU520 BEGLAX21:32

    btw besides JFK/ORD/DTW/CLE/LAX, JU also operated Charterflights to PIT

    at that time besides JU probably only BA operated flights to destinations such as CLE or PIT from Europe

    1. Even today, I don't believe CLE has any transatlantic flights. PIT gets seasonal ones from time to time. I think DL did PIT-CDG recently.

    2. Anonymous23:30

      Cleveland does not have transatlantic flights, the ONLY successful flights we had over the ocean were to Beograd (via Ljubljana and Zagreb sometimes). Continental tried to London and Paris, and they did not work.

      And for that time, JAT was the only airline flying transatlantic to Cleveland.

  9. exYU, where did you find out that FAA will visit next month? Aren't those audits unannounced? Thanks.

    1. It was announced by the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate some time ago (Nebojša Starčević actually).

    2. BEG2IAH22:10

      Thanks! I hope this gets updated soon to say Cat 1: http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/iasa/media/iasaws.xls

  10. JU520 BEGLAX21:55

    probably biggest hurdle for BEG to get a transatlatic flight right now, is the fact that JU is not in an Alliance.

    to operate profitable flights u need feeders on both ends or u re really a hot spot like Paris, London, Zurich, Amsterdam etc.

  11. Anonymous23:34

    true, but they do have an extensive regional network :D

  12. Anonymous23:35

    @ Admin, where did you hear that Azal is in talks with Jat for transatlantic flights?

  13. Anonymous01:10

    I have to second the comment made above about premium traffic. Most people here seem fixated on filling a plane. *That* would not be so much of a problem with reasonable destinations in the area like Belgrade or Zagreb. However, the modern economics of air transport are such that a TATL plane full of Q/W/T/L economy passengers (what pretty much all ex-Yugos buy) equals a losing operation. If you take the cost of operating a flight from BEG to NYC and divide it into equal fares across the all-economy cabin, you may get e.g. 1000$ r/t (say, for the sake of argument). But LH will be able to offer e.g. 900$ r/t BEG to FRA to NYC, because at least on the FRA to NYC leg they will have a full business cabin at 5000$ r/t. As a consequence no-one will buy the direct BEG to NYC flight and the whole scheme will collapse. This has been tried before. Trans-atlantic nonstops from Prague and Budapest or e.g. Delta's nonstops to, say, Kiev, have failed for exactly the same reason. It's the mentality/expendable funds issue: there aren't enough people to whom comfort and productivity are worth as much as modern business class commands, while on the other hand, due to competition, you can't charge higher economy class fares to compensate. The result is failure.

    1. JU520 BEGLAX18:37

      good statement. fully agree with you!

    2. I must admit I agree with both of you if you talk about "old fashioned" airlines (you mentioned some of them : LH,SQ,DL, AA...).

      By "oldfashioned" I mean :
      1. plenty of represantations, offices, GSA's
      2. more staff than really needed
      3. strong trade unions which limit work
      4. huge unnecessary amounts of money for
      advertising, even when holding monopoly
      5. sponsorships from A to Z and back
      6. most expensive slots/airports
      7. sometimes too luxurious catering
      8. rarely mentioned, but corruptive affairs
      too, especcially on markets
      which function only that way
      9. overpayed and overnumbered managers

      And so on and so on and so on...

      You both talk premium traffic, too. And yes, companies which function following "oldfashioned" pattern, with the items 1-9 just listed above, and much more, really NEED to have premium passengers for 3000 or more $, and economy for 1000 or more $, for return ticket, let's say very generrally Europe-East coast. In order to pay for all above listed.

      You both talk numbers, too. Let me now talk numbers, but from the other perspective, "cut cost" perspective, the only possible today.

      As far as I know, correct me if I'm wrong, one block-hour for, for example Q400, costs approximatelly 2000 euro, for E195/F100 approximately 4000 euro, for A320/321, is approximatelly 5000-6000 euro, for B763/A330 is approx. 8000 euro (or 10.000 $, let's stay with the last).

      Now imagine that we have 320 all economy seats in an Airbus A330, and we sell only about 80% (which is practically impossible because long-haul flights are ALWAYS FULL, no matter where from and where to), which means that we have 260 passengers on every flight.

      If A330 in question is flying, just for example, ZAG-JFK-ZAG (9 block hours heading west, 8 block hours heading east, 17 alltogether), it means that total operational costs for return flight are 170.000 $, or, divided with 260 passengers (80% LF !!!), it makes 650 $ per return ticket. If we add airport taxes, it is still no more than 700-750 $ or roughly speaking 500-600 euro.

      Therefore, the result does not have to be a failure. The failure are only politicans and so-called airline managers throughout ex-Yu, who don't care about aviation, don't care about their passengers, both in ex-Yu and overseas, and don't care for anything else except their pockets, at the same time not allowing people willing to start operations under the model just described.

      Otherwise, we could have had, long time ago, at least one decent ex-Yu airline to take us from/to at least USA&Canada for 700 $, instead LH,AF,TK,OS,BA and others for 1000 $ and more.

      And please don't tell me that what I'm talking about is low-cost concept because it is not. For this aerea, it's the only savy, sane and safe model, which could save us from arrogant prodigal shameless thief foeign airlines and their satellites here ..

    3. Anonymous21:41

      You also need to calculate costs re marketing, sale channels (GDS cost a lot), you need plane checks, new planes have to be bought out of something, and of course some profit should be made. Fuel cost is also changeable, and ticket value once sold remains the same etc....there are many additional costs and uncertainties related and I dont think running an airline is that simple or if it is that easy to set up money making route in such low yield markets as are all if ex yu....and thats I believe airlines allocate their assets (planes) to/from US elsewhere. Maybe they would have enough passengers, but not enough revenue.

    4. All airlines buy (actually they don't buy any more, they lease) planes, at more or less same prices.

      Maintenance (or as you say plane checks) costs, and lease (buy) costs, are already included in operational costs per hour per type I've listed.

      Marketing and "sale channels" are pretty much included in my list 1-9 where huge savings and cost cuts are possible.

      Every single serious businessman knows that profits are not to be expected on very beginning of the operations and losses arwe to be incorporated in starting account.

      For fuel costs and (not many but some) uncertanties, I agree.

      Aproximatelly 350.000 passengers yearly between ex-Yu and North America can hardly be called low yield market.

      And after all, I was not talking about some undefined ghost old-fashioned north american airline, but about very concrete airline registered in croatia which has been trying to start operations for years, but cannot due to corrupt politicians and incompetent so-called managers (politicians puppets) who all play for Lufthansa.

    5. Anonymous06:20

      Like I said, there might be enough pax, but I highly doubt that there would be enough revenue reason to fly directly, otherwise I am sure that somebody would already at least think seriously about it. Air Plus was not serious for that matter, just good will. And regarding this ghost airline in Croatia, it is just a ghost, no LH or politicans to blame here...for many other things yes, but not for this rumoured airline. Why dont you start an airline? Not in Croatia, if it is impossible cause of LH, go to US, Australia, Middle East...? Make this profitable venture from somewhere else?

  14. Anonymous21:53

    Aerosvit still maintains a Kiev-New York non-stop and besides that a quite respectable long-haul network. And their fares are dirt-cheap.

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